Our first day in Cambodia started with embracing a moon cake for breakfast as a celebration for the Moon Festival, a day adopted from the Chinese once a year to honor the full moon. We furthered the celebration in the evening with more offerings and lighting special ornaments.
Somehow on my first morning I found myself at the gym with Poau and Sea, our host brother and sister. It was an interesting experience as Garnett was teaching Poau how to swim while I ran on the treadmill. It was funny because I overlooked the pool as I ran and noticed how Garnett was the only White Boy in the pool in a sea of Cambodians…..hillarious!!!
Next was off to the market to meet our host mother, Paula, who sells jewelry. All I can say about this 4 story market is that our trip to Bali in 2010 got me accustomed to seeing a whole bunch of stuff in one place and how to sternly say NO. As Poau took us throughout the market to introduce us to some of her extended family, I realized that we were known as “her foriegner’s,” similar to the phrase “my bitches” back home…..I mean this all in good humor.
The entire day was not only taking in the smiling faces of Cambodia’s present but we also had to recognize that this country is not all sunshine and rainbows, thus we visited the Genocide Museum. This was a former high school that had been turned into a torture camp during the Khmer Rouge Regime during the 70’s and now serves as a museum to remember how this country has progressed. I was warned before coming to Cambodia that this would be tough to see but is an important place to visit. I had never visited a place like this where you could still feel the horrors of the events that took place there. It truly brought tears to my eyes and gave me a very sick feeling in my stomach. I left there feeling mentally and physically drained as we have taken in so much of the Cambodian past and present in one day.
On a lighter note, the food improved throughout the day until we ate a baby fried bird at dinner but all I can say is “when in Cambodia….” The country has already found a special place in my heart with the wonderful people. I look forward to taking more in tomorrow. Until then, this girl has to get to bed with the fan on high to cool me off.